Tuesday, December 21, 2010


In the wee hours of this morning there was a total lunar eclipse, the moon smudged by the earth's shadow to a faint charcoal blot in the sky. This afternoon the winter solstice occurred, heralding the longest night of the year. The day was a double whammy of darkness. Though the eclipse was a lovely distraction from a sunset at 4-something p.m., many of us quickly returned to waiting, with varying degrees of patience and strength of mood swings, for precious daylight to show up earlier and linger longer once again.

We humans are diurnal creatures, evolved to go about our business in the daylight. Our circadian rhythms respond to an increase in the duration and intensity of natural light by making us more energetic and happier. Darkness makes us inclined to eat more (back AWAY from the bathroom scale and no one will get hurt!), sleep more, be less active, and generally get a bit unbalanced, sometimes just plain weird. The return of daylight hours is an important milestone for every human in the circular pattern of every year. And that's why virtually every culture and tradition has some kind of celebration marking the return of the light. Often those celebrations of a primal relationship with our world are embellished with an overlay of religious myth -  for instance, Jesus, in the Christian tradition, is called the "Light of the World" and is said to have been born in the dark of the year, even though there is no historical evidence whatsoever that his birth took place in December - coincidentally close to the solstice, too. Even Groundhog Day on February 2nd is a secular holiday celebrating the coming sun and the imminent end of winter. The fun superstition of Groundhog Day was overlaid on the Catholic holy day of Candlemas, which in its turn was overlaid on an ancient celebration of the goddess figure Brigid, bringer of fire, knowledge, medicine and writing to the Celtic people (note that all those gifts are forms of light or "enlightenment").

Whatever your belief system, take the time to acknowledge that we are creatures of light, our shadow side notwithstanding, and revel in the few minutes of additional daylight we begin receiving each day after today. Greet the day as you would greet a good friend - notice its new clothes and tell it how nice it looks. It will hang around you for the pure pleasure of the relationship between light and that which it illuminates...and you will be the better for it.

Happy Return of the Light!

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